THUNDER BAY – The young people are headed to Europe. Six First Nations youth ambassadors from across Canada are meeting with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), a group that monitors Canada’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, on February 6, 2012 in Geneva.
The youth will ask the UNCRC to pressure the Canadian Government to end the inequities in First Nations education, health, child welfare, and culture and language programs.
The goal is to ensure that First Nations children get the same chance as other Canadian children to grow up safely at home, go to good schools, be healthy and proud of who they are.
Helen Knott (age 24) from Prophet River First Nation, BC stated, “When I look at our First Nations youth and children I see potential, possibilities and resiliency. The Federal Government needs to see that too and begin to view our children, not as dollar signs, but as children who deserve to be invested in.”
Chelsea Edwards (age 16) from Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario and youth spokesperson for the Shannen’s Dream campaign for First Nations education said “As Shannen said ‘no one should ever have to walk in our moccasins again.’ It’s time for the government to step up and deliver on their signed commitments for “safe and comfy” schools for First Nations children.”
15 year old Collin Starblanket from the Star Blanket Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan is going to tell the UN how important Treaty recognition and culture are to First Nations children.
He also stresses that “Creating bridges to our gaps will help build more understanding and it will also help create a better future for the generations yet to come”.
Solutions to the inequities exist and because Canada has not implemented them,
Kendall White (age 17) from Temagami First Nation in Ontario remarked “I’m going to Geneva to address issues with First Nations youth and to implement a positive change so future generations can live life to the fullest without the boundaries.”
John-Paul Chalykoff (age 24) from Michipicoten First Nation, Ontario emphasizes that “I would like people to know that education is suffering for many of these youth and I would like to see the different levels of government (First Nations, Federal, Provincial/Territorial) all work together for the education of First Nations youth.”
Madelynn Slade of (age 22) from the Michel Cree in Alberta says “I want to ensure that the voices and concerns of First Nations youth are heard at an international level.”
The youth will be accompanied by Cindy Blackstock from the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada who notes that “there is absolutely no legitimate reason for a child to get poorer quality government services because they are indigenous in one of the richest countries in the world”